Morning Digest: New polling shows just how much Republicans despise Kelly Loeffler (hint: a lot)

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The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Oregon: The Beaver State held its primaries on Tuesday, and we’ll cover the outcomes in the next edition of the Digest. You can find the election results here.

Leading Off

GA-Sen-A, GA-Sen-B: A new poll from Democratic pollster Civiqs on behalf of Daily Kos shows Republicans at risk of losing both their Senate seats in Georgia this year, but the news is especially dire for Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who’s on track for a very short career even if the GOP hangs on in the Peach State.

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Loeffler’s fortunes look grim, but she”;s not the only Georgia Republican in trouble. Civiqs’ examination of the state’s regular Senate election finds Sen. David Perdue locked in tight with all of his potential Democratic opponents–;and, for the first time in a public survey, trailing his best-known rival: Investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff, who ran in the famous 2017 special election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, edges Perdue 47-45.

This is also the first poll to publicly test the two other Democrats running, and they both perform similarly: Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson trails just 45-44 and businesswoman Sarah Riggs Amico is just a little farther back at 45-42. (The survey didn’t ask about the Democratic primary.) Joe Biden is also up 1 point on Donald Trump, 48-47.

But Loeffler is in considerably worse shape than Perdue. In a simulation of the November all-party general election for her seat, Loeffler is mired in fourth place with just 12% of the vote, despite the millions she’s already spent out of her own pocket to promote her candidacy. Far ahead is Rep. Doug Collins, a fellow Republican and Trump favorite, who leads with 34%, while Pastor Raphael Warnock and businessman Matt Lieberman are vying for the second slot in an all-but-certain January runoff with 18% and 14% respectively. (A third Democrat, former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver, is at 6.)

Those numbers could yet shift, of course, but hypothetical runoff matchups between the two Republicans and three Democrats illustrate just how little love the GOP base has for Loeffler. Against Collins, the Democrats, who all perform similarly, are in a tight race:

Warnock: 45, Collins 44
Lieberman: 44, Collins 44
Tarver: 42, Collins 45

Not so versus Loeffler, who gets blown out by all three:

Warnock: 45, Loeffler: 32
Lieberman: 44, Loeffler: 32
Tarver: 43, Loeffler: 32

These questions deliberately included an option that wouldn’t be available in an actual runoff, which would feature only two candidates: the choice of voting for “someone else.” That, however, allowed Civiqs to assess how warmly respondents feel about the field–;and for a large slice of the Republican electorate, the answer when it comes to Loeffler is “ice cold.” On average, about 19% of voters say they’d prefer a different candidate in the runoffs that feature Loeffler, which explains her feeble 32% share of the vote against all comers, while just 7% say the same when Collins is the GOP standard-bearer.

Overall, Loeffler sports a brutal 21-59 favorability rating and is even underwater with members of her own party, who give her a 36-39 mark–;a shockingly miserable score. Collins, on the other hand, stands at 40-35 among all voters and 76-9 with Republicans, a much more normal finding (typically, Republicans like Republican politicians and Democrats like Democratic politicians–;as you’d expect!).

Matters have gotten so bad for Loeffler, who hasn’t been able to offer straight answers about the burgeoning insider trading scandal engulfing her, that her campaign has reached the point of having to deny that she’s dropping out. Fellow Republicans are now openly sniping to reporters–;some even on the record–;with one unnamed operative telling McClatchy’s Francesca Chambers that GOP candidates in other races are “nervous as hell” about possible spillover effects from Loeffler’s scandal.

More worrying for Republicans, Civiqs’ results don’t stand alone. Rather, they echo those from a trio of recent GOP polls that have found Perdue stuck in the mid-40s and Ossoff within striking distance, as well as Biden neck and neck with Trump. The picture for the special election is a bit more varied, but Loeffler has almost never led and has seldom enjoyed anything but a very shaky grip on the second slot at best.

At this point, it’s likely Loeffler’s only hope lies in devoting her giant personal fortune to nuking Collins. Ironically, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp tapped Loeffler when GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson resigned last year as the supposedly more electable option, but a messy internal fight could damage both candidates and leave either softened up for Democrats.

There’s still one key detail that probably redounds in the GOP’s favor, though: January turnout. Unless Loeffler really does quit the race, the special election, as mentioned above, is sure to result in a second round of voting since it’s almost impossible to envision anyone capturing a majority of the vote. The regular election is likely to as well, since Georgia, uniquely, also requires that all candidates in normal general elections win a majority of the vote. With a Libertarian on the November ballot, there’s a good chance no one will, as this Civiqs poll suggests.

Georgia Republicans have won every runoff in the last couple of decades, largely because Democratic-leaning voters tend to fall off in larger numbers, so if either or both of these races are prolonged until next year, the GOP might finally encounter some good news. On the other hand, a possible lame-duck Donald Trump tweeting lord-knows-what every day could keep Democrats energized in new ways that Republicans would probably rather not find out about.

Election Changes

Michigan: Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has announced that she will send absentee ballot applications to all voters for Michigan’s Aug. 4 primary and the November general election. Under existing state law, voters can also sign up to automatically receive an absentee ballot application (though not a ballot) for every future election.

New York: The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling by a trial court reinstating New York’s June 23 presidential primary, which the state Board of Elections had previously sought to cancel. Officials say they will not appeal this latest decision, meaning that the presidential race will go forward alongside primaries for downballot offices across the state.

Separately, a state court has rejected a pair of related lawsuits seeking to revive the June 23 special election for Queens borough president. The election for the final year of former Borough President Melinda Katz’s term is still proceeding this year, with a primary on June 23 and a general election in November. A race for the full four-year term will take place next year.

Senate

AL-Sen: The GOP firm Cygnal, which is not working for any client or group in this contest, is out with a poll of the July GOP primary runoff that shows former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ comeback bid in dire shape. The survey finds Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville defeating the ex-senator 55-32, which is a big shift from the already large 52-40 Tuberville lead that Cygnal showed in March. This is the first poll we’ve seen in two months for the GOP contest to take on Democratic Sen. Doug Jones.

Tuberville is also out with a TV commercial that features a clip of Donald Trump saying that if he could redo anything from his presidency, “I would not have appointed Jeff Sessions to be attorney general.” Tuberville then appears in a locker room and tells the audience, “Jeff Sessions quit on the president, and he failed Alabama. I’ll always have President Trump’s back.” Somewhat surprisingly, Tuberville doesn’t mention that he’s been endorsed by Trump.

AZ-Sen: The local GOP pollster OH Predictive Insights finds Democrat Mark Kelly with a wide 51-38 lead over appointed Republican Sen. Martha McSally, while Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump 50-43. The firm gave Kelly a 51-42 lead last month, and we haven’t seen any other surveys in the intervening time.

Meanwhile, McSally released an ad last week blaming China for the coronavirus pandemic, a theme that has been quite common in recent GOP ads.

KS-Sen: State Senate President Susan Wagle uses her new TV spot to portray herself as an alternative to the “food fight” between the two August GOP primary frontrunners, Rep. Roger Marshall and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. We’ve seen other Republicans use this metaphor in other races, but Wagle goes a step further and utilizes the very same footage of a cafeteria full of well-dressed adults throwing their lunches at one another that appeared in a 2016 Senate ad for Louisiana Republican John Fleming. (Fleming ended up taking fifth place in that year’s all-party primary.)

The rest of the commercial promotes Wagle’s conservative record in the state Senate. The narrator concludes by calling Wagle a “cowboy boot wearing grandmother who gets things done,” which is not a line from Fleming’s Louisiana ad.

ME-Sen: The conservative group One Nation’s new ad, which is part of a $510,000 buy, praises GOP Sen. Susan Collins for having “co-authored the Paycheck Protection Plan.” Politico also reports that End Citizens United, which backs state House Speaker Sara Gideon in the July Democratic primary, is launching a $1.8 million TV ad campaign on June 1.

Gubernatorial

MT-Gov: EMILY’s List became the first major outside group to get involved in the June 2 Democratic primary this week when it announced that it was launching a hefty $687,000 TV buy in support of businesswoman Whitney Williams.

The narrator begins by declaring that “a Canadian mining company” will put the Smith River, which she calls “a Montana treasure,” at risk. The ad continues, “When it comes to our public lands, Whitney Williams is the clear choice for governor. Whitney Williams will fight to stop the Smith River mine. And she’ll stand up for ALL our public lands.”

VA-Gov: Republican Neil Chatterjee, who serves as chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, did not rule out a 2021 bid for governor when Politico asked him about it this week. Chatterjee said he was “just playing around” when he started a Facebook group called “Hypothetical: Draft Neil Chatterjee for Virginia Governor 2021,” but he didn’t say no to a non-hypothetical campaign when pressed.

House

FL-15: The far-right Club for Growth has endorsed freshman Rep. Ross Spano, whom it also backed last cycle, in the August GOP primary. Spano is under federal investigation for allegedly violating campaign finance laws during his successful 2018 bid, and he faces an intra-party challenge from Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin.

GA-09, GA-14: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that two Republicans running for safely red House seats in Georgia, 9th District hopeful Matt Gurtler and 14th District candidate Marjorie Greene, each posed for a photo earlier this year with longtime white supremacist Chester Doles.

Gurtler, a state representative running in the June 9 primary to succeed Senate candidate Doug Collins, was shown with several other candidates for lower office alongside Doles, with a banner for Doles”; “;American Patriots USA”; behind them. American Patriots is notorious in state political circles for, among other things, arguing that the Sept. 11 attacks were an inside job, and even Collins condemned it last year.

When the AJC asked Gurtler about the picture he responded, “;I was asked by a voter to speak to a pro-gun, conservative group that supports President Trump. There was a group picture with all the candidates and speakers.”; Gurtler”;s campaign also told the paper that Doles had not been the one to invite him, but it didn”;t reveal anything more.

Later on Monday, Gurtler put out a string of tweets attacking “;[t]he fake news media”; and “;unprincipled actors”; who are “;are focused on maintaining their corrupt agendas.”; Gurtler insisted, “;I abhor bigotry and hate of any kind,”; though he didn”;t say why he had attended Doles”; event.

Gurtler”;s allies at the anti-tax Club for Growth, though, were fine with his response. When the AJC asked if this photo would affect the group”;s support for Gurtler, a Club spokesman responded, “;No change. He has addressed it.”; The organization also launched a $244,000 ad campaign promoting the state representative as a pro-Trump conservative who isn”;t a “;career politician.”;

Over in the neighboring 14th District, self-funding businesswoman Marjorie Greene was even less contrite about her photo with Doles. Greene”;s campaign dismissed the AJC”;s questions as “;silly and the same type of sleazy attacks the Fake News Media levels against President Trump.”;

Doles himself expressed plenty of admiration for “;[o]ur friend Marjorie Greene”; in a March Facebook post. Greene has in the past defended QAnon, the notorious pro-Trump conspiracy theory, and Doles called her “;part of the Q movement”; and a “;[g]ood friend to have.”;

IN-05: The anti-tax Club for Growth is out with a poll from WPA Intelligence that shows its endorsed candidate, state Sen. Victoria Spartz, well ahead in the June 2 GOP primary for this competitive seat.

Spartz leads former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi 32-14, while businesswoman Beth Henderson takes 13%. Youth pastor Micah Beckwith and state Treasurer Kelly Mitchell are at 8% and 5%, respectively, while physician Chuck Dietzen brings up the rear at 3%; the memo also says that the rest of the field takes a combined 10%. This is the first poll we’ve seen of the contest to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Susan Brooks in this suburban Indianapolis seat.

The Club has also launched a commercial against Brizzi that features footage from December of him saying, “I’m not a Trump guy. I know that the orange man does crazy things.” The spot also shows Brizzi declaring he didn’t vote for Trump.

Meanwhile on the Democratic side, former state Rep. Christina Hale, who is the clear favorite to win her party’s nomination, is out with her first ad. The narrator argues that Hale is a bipartisan problem solver who is focused “on lowering healthcare costs and getting Hoosiers back on the job, leaving no one behind.”

MT-AL: What do you do when you’re running in a GOP primary against a Trump-endorsed opponent? If you’re Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, you run a commercial arguing that your foe, state Auditor Matt Rosendale, is a Marylander who “supports amnesty for illegal immigrants and is backed by the same swamp creatures that spent millions attacking President Trump.” The narrator doesn’t elaborate on the “swamp creatures” line, but this is probably a reference to Rosendale’s allies at the Club for Growth, which opposed Trump in the 2016 primaries.

Stapleton himself then appears and stresses that he’s a fourth-generation Montanan who has “been tested driving aircraft carriers in the Navy and fighting liberals in Helena.” Stapleton goes on to say he’ll be a Trump ally in Congress who will help him “build the wall, pass term limits, defeat socialism, and restart the economy.”

Rosendale himself is also out with a commercial ahead of the June 2 primary that may look very familiar to anyone watching Montana TV two years ago. As Nathan Gonzales points out, this is a version of the commercial Rosendale ran during his 2018 Senate bid, though he leaves out the part attacking Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. (Hey, at least he didn’t borrow from John Fleming.) Rosendale won the primary last cycle, but he went on to lose to Tester in the fall.

NE-02: EMILY’s List has endorsed Democrat Kara Eastman’s bid against GOP Rep. Don Bacon.

NY-17: Former Department of Defense official Evelyn Farkas is out with her first spot ahead of the June 23 Democratic primary for this open seat.

Farkas, who is on a ship in New York Harbor near the Statue of Liberty, tells the audience, “This is what liberty means to me. My parents escaped communism and came here with nothing.” Farkas continues by talking about her work in the Obama administration, where she “took on dictators and bullies who didn’t like how I stood up to President Trump.” The commercial then shows clips of Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Sean Spicer saying her name, before the candidate declares, “And I’ll fight in Congress for liberties like the right to choose and to live without assault weapons.”

PA-10: State Auditor Eugene DePasquale is out with his first TV spot ahead of the June 2 Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. Scott Perry.

DePasquale declares that Washington dysfunction has made the pandemic worse and continues, “As your auditor general, I’ve seen government dysfunction and done something about it.” DePasquale calls for “protective equipment for frontline workers, enough tests to track the virus, and making sure aid gets to people and small businesses, not corporations with the best paid lobbyists.”

SC-01: The GOP pollster First Tuesday Strategies, which says it does not have a client here, is out with a survey pitting freshman Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham against the two main GOP candidates.

The poll gives Mount Pleasant Town Councilwoman Kathy Landing a 45-43 edge over Cunningham, while state Rep. Nancy Mace leads the incumbent by a similar 45-44 spread. The survey also shows Donald Trump leading 51-41 in a coastal South Carolina seat he carried 53-40 four years ago, while GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham defeats Democrat Jaime Harrison 51-39 here.

This is the first survey we’ve seen testing any hypothetical general election matchups, but it may be about a month before Cunningham knows who his opponent is. Landing, Mace, and two other Republicans will compete in the June 9 primary; if no one wins a majority, a runoff would take place two weeks later.

TX-13: This week, businessman Chris Ekstrom endorsed former White House chief physician Ronny Jackson in the July GOP primary runoff for this safely red district.

Lobbyist Josh Winegarner took first place in March with 39%, while Jackson edged Ekstrom 20-15 for second. Ekstrom, who moved to this Texas Panhandle seat from the Dallas area, responded to his close defeat over following days with a series of angry social media posts, including one bemoaning the state of the district’s two largest cities and urging readers, “Never allow local Village Idiots to drive out ‘Dallas Millionaires’…unless a dying local economy is the goal.”

UT-01: Former U.S. Foreign Service officer Blake Moore is out with his first TV spot ahead of the June 30 GOP primary for this safely red seat, and Utah Politics reports that he’s planning to spend $100,000 for this ad campaign.

Moore begins, “I learned it from my coaches: Expect Moore.” (Sorry, we don’t write these puns.) He continues by touching on his time as a football player at Utah State University, in the Foreign Service, and in business, and argues he has “the right experience” to take on America’s challenges.

VA-05: 314 Action Fund has launched what it describes as a “six-figure buy” in support of physician Cameron Webb in the June 23 Democratic primary. The group says that the commercial will run “exclusively in the Roanoke media market,” which makes up about half of this seat.

The ads (here and here) praise Webb as a caring doctor who “battled the insurance companies” and went on to serve as a healthcare advisor for Barack Obama.

Other Races

IN-AG: On Monday, the Indiana Supreme Court denied Gov. Eric Holcomb’s request to clarify whether or not Curtis Hill, a fellow Republican, could remain state attorney general now that his law license is suspended until June 17.

While some legal experts told the Indianapolis Star afterwards that Holcomb could still try to replace Hill, it doesn’t sound like the governor will attempt this. Holcomb’s office instead put out a statement saying that, now that the court has decided not to answer whether Hill’s office is vacant and what Holcomb’s responsibilities are in this matter, there “is no further action on my part.”

Last week, the state’s highest court announced that it was suspending Hill’s law license for 30 days, beginning on May 18, after determining that he had groped several women and “committed the criminal act of battery.” Hill soon said that he was putting his chief deputy in charge of the office until his punishment ends.

While it looks like Hill will be able to resume his duties on June 17, he’ll need to fight to win renomination immediately afterwards. Both parties in Indiana select nominees for attorney general at conventions rather than in party primaries, and the GOP event is scheduled for next month. However, the party announced last week that, because of social distancing, it will not hold an in-person gathering as planned.

Instead, the state GOP will be conducting its convention voting by mail. The over 1,000 delegates participating will receive their ballots by June 22, and the party faithful will then mail their votes to the accounting firm the GOP has hired. The ballots will be tabulated on July 10, which is one day after they are due. Democrats will be holding a virtual convention on June 13, but Team Blue has not yet announced how it will proceed.

Read more: feeds.dailykosmedia.com

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